Thursday, 17 February 2011

The Real Ronaldo

If I went down to the park today and approached a group of young lads playing football and asked them what their opinions were on Ronaldo, then they'd probably be quick to make reference to a certain 26-year-old Portuguese star who currently parades around in the white of Madrid.

"No", I would say. "I mean this guy", as I hold up one of the many undignified pictures (below -right) of 'The Original Ronaldo', sporting a unkept head of hair, his once slender gut bulging over his shorts and looking as far removed from the class act he once was as humanly possible.

As a chorus of distasteful comments sounded out from the youths, I'd say with assured confidence, "This man is the real Ronaldo!".

That's right kids, before the perma-tanned and uber-groomed Ronaldo burst on to scene with Sporting Lisbon and later Manchester United, a player by the same name was already widely regarded as the most lethal finisher in football.

Some, at the time of Ronaldo's ascendancy would have dared to argue that Ronaldo was heir to Pele's throne as the golden boy of Brazilian football, a man who when he called time on his decorated career, would forever be referenced in football folklore as one of the greats.

Perhaps not all of those with that view way back when would feel the same now, but many would certainly have thought it at the time that a Brazilian by the name of Ronaldo could eclipse the great Pele.

Ronaldo Luiz Nazario da Lima enjoyed a prosperous career that spanned 18 years from 1993 in Brazil with Cruziero and ending somewhat ungracefully in 2011 in his native with Corinthians.

He prospered in Holland with PSV, in Spain with Barcelona and Real Madrid and in Italy with Inter and AC Milan, before returning home to play out his remaining days on native soil.

Starting out in Brazil, it was Brazil legend Jairzinho who helped Ronaldo secure a move to Cruziero after the young Brazilian was turned down by his favourite team growing up -Flamengo.

In his first season with Cruziero, a 17-year-old Ronaldo led the Brazilian club to their first Copa do Brasil Championship. On route to the championship Ronaldo proved prolific in front of goal, a hallmark he would continue throughout his career.

In 14 appearances Ronaldo amassed a scoring return of 12 goals in what was to be his one and only season with Cruziero.

Ronaldo's early exploits in Brazil and a surprise inclusion to the Brazil national team for the 1994 World Cup (despite not playing) were enough to pique the interest of Dutch club PSV Eindhoven.

Influenced by Brazil team-mate Romario, who had previously played at PSV, Ronaldo left Brazil for Holland and PSV and in his first season with the Dutch club the young Brazilian marksman scored 30 league goals.

In Ronaldo's second season in Holland much of his time was spent on the treatment table because of a knee injury. Depsite only making 13 appearances in the league, Ronaldo managed to net on twelve occasions.

During his time in Holland, Ronaldo won the Dutch Cup and was the league's top scorer in 1995.

At the beginning of the 1996-1997 season Ronaldo's reputation had gone global and Europe's elite were keeping close tabs on the Brazilian wonderkid.

Barcelona came calling shortly after and PSV were to lose their prized asset in exchange for £16 million, as Ronaldo headed for Camp Nou.

It was at Barcelona under the guardianship of Bobby Robson, where the Brazilian really began to flourish and project himself as a global phenomenon.

At aged 20, after completing his one and only season in Barcelona colours, Ronaldo became the youngest player to win FIFA's World Player of the Year accolade. In the same season, Ronaldo finished runner up for the coverted Ballon D'or honour.

The Brazilian played in Holland with PSV, before moving to Spain with Barcelona. It was at the Nou Camp where Ronaldo made his name. His pace, power and trickery dismantled defences in La Liga.

Ronaldo became a phenomenon in Spain. He simply terrified his opposition and soon comparisons with the great Pele were being made about Barcelona's young Brazilian.
His first stint in Spain was brief. Despite the embaressment of youtube clips dedicated to Ronaldo's time spent at the Nou Camp, Ronaldo spent just one season with the Catalan side.
In Barcelona colours Ronaldo both glided and bustled his way through defences and showed in routine fashion just how prolific he had become. In Holland Ronaldo was resounding success but it was in Barcelona where the Brazilian became one of the most recognised and deadly finishers on the planet.
His reputation swelled in Spain and after just one season at Barcelona Ronaldo moved to Italy with Inter Milan who invested £19 million in the South American sensation.

Regarded as one of the best players of his generation, Ronaldo never won the Champions League.
Ronaldo's career was not without controversy. On numerous occasions, the Brazilian made headlines for the wrong reasons.

Hours before the World Cup Final in 1998 Ronaldo was said to have had a ceasure and rumours spread that Brazil's star man would miss the Final. The event is still shrouded in mystery and speculation. A visually unfit Ronaldo did play in the Final, but Ronaldo looked tired and tormented. He was in no fit state to be playing in a World Cup final and it showed.

He may be better known as The Fat Ronaldo these days, but during his playing days most notably with Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid the three time World Player of the Year was without doubt the best footballer on the planet, and by quite a margin.

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